A grim, well-researched case that capitalism is wildly dysfunctional but that reform is possible, if not imminent.

AT WHAT COST

MODERN CAPITALISM AND THE FUTURE OF HEALTH

A study of the disastrous collision of capitalism and public health.

Capitalism gives off a fusty air, so many leaders prefer the term free market to describe the system that dominates global economies—and whose flaws are no secret to scholars, including Freudenberg, an expert on public health policy. Since the peak of the so-called “welfare state” in the 1960s, writes the author, the U.S. has adopted neoliberalism, whose strategies of deregulation, tax cuts, privatization, and austerity grant capital markets supreme authority. After the introduction, Freudenberg presents six long chapters on the dismal state of what he calls “the pillars of health.” Our global food system has largely eliminated famine, replacing it with an epidemic of overnutrition, obesity, and diet-related diseases, the result of an avalanche of low-quality, superprocessed, calorie-dense quasi-foods. Education leads to better health, but declining government support has led to an explosion of private enterprise. Charter schools suck money from public funds with the promise of a cheaper, better product, but they have not delivered. For-profit colleges verge on scams, and adolescents are becoming addicted to their electronic devices at the expense of human interaction, a situation that causes depression and anxiety. In the sole chapter that focuses exclusively on health care, the author discusses the war on cancer. He shows how pharmaceutical companies, in their obsessive search for a “blockbuster drug,” churn out wildly expensive chemotherapeutics that may or may not prolong life a few months. In his conclusion, Freudenberg works hard to project optimism. Unions remain moribund, but low-paid workers continue to organize to press for better conditions; others have launched cooperative business ventures. Though the federal government is consistently gridlocked, the author describes state and city programs that provide child care, family leave, affordable public transportation, and living wages. Ultimately, these efforts must coalesce into a mass movement with political clout, and Freudenberg remains hopeful.

A grim, well-researched case that capitalism is wildly dysfunctional but that reform is possible, if not imminent.

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-007862-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

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BROKEN (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY)

The Bloggess is back to survey the hazards and hilarity of imperfection.

Lawson is a wanderer. Whether on her award-winning blog or in the pages of her bestselling books, she reliably takes readers to places they weren’t even aware they wanted to go—e.g., shopping for dog condoms or witnessing what appears to be a satanic ritual. Longtime fans of the author’s prose know that the destinations really aren’t the point; it’s the laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-your-face journeys that make her writing so irresistible. This book is another solid collection of humorous musings on everyday life, or at least the life of a self-described “super introvert” who has a fantastic imagination and dozens of chosen spirit animals. While Furiously Happy centered on the idea of making good mental health days exceptionally good, her latest celebrates the notion that being broken is beautiful—or at least nothing to be ashamed of. “I have managed to fuck shit up in shockingly impressive ways and still be considered a fairly acceptable person,” writes Lawson, who has made something of an art form out of awkward confessionals. For example, she chronicles a mix-up at the post office that left her with a “big ol’ sack filled with a dozen small squishy penises [with] smiley faces painted on them.” It’s not all laughs, though, as the author addresses her ongoing battle with both physical and mental illness, including a trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a relatively new therapy for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. The author’s colloquial narrative style may not suit the linear-narrative crowd, but this isn’t for them. “What we really want,” she writes, “is to know we’re not alone in our terribleness….Human foibles are what make us us, and the art of mortification is what brings us all together.” The material is fresh, but the scaffolding is the same.

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-07703-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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